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Psychedelic Square 

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click to enlarge Brandon Jackson - PHILLIP HILL

Why Fountain Square?

The first thing most people will tell you is that they live here because it's cheap. Just a few years ago, when most of the current roster of resident musicians moved here, an interested party could rent a two-story house for as little $350 a month.

Though rents are going up gradually, there's also a lot more to do than there was even five years ago, as new music venues and restaurants, and even a brewery have popped up in the past two years.

"Artists are directly responsible for the prosperity of this neighborhood," says local musician and long-time Fountain Square resident Christian Taylor, referencing art spaces such as the Big Car Gallery (which has now relocated to Lafayette Square) and the Murphy Building galleries.

Even more recently, White Rabbit Cabaret, Revolucion and La Margarita have popped up to cater to the increasing amount of young, hip people spending their time here.

But the deeper answer to that question lies in the overall shift of a portion of the music community away from Broad Ripple, a trend that started as live venues like The Patio and others in the area closed up shop. This effect continues today, as the venue Locals Only on 56th and Keystone, is planning to shut its doors.

"Broad Ripple was a lot different five to 10 years ago than it is now," said Jon Rogers, founder of the band Everything, Now! and current editor of Musical Family Tree, who moved from Muncie to Indianapolis 
in 2007.
Rogers settled in Broad Ripple because of its proximity to live music venues catering to local musicians. But, shortly thereafter, he started finding it difficult to book shows in the area and found that musicians were no longer moving to Broad Ripple. In fact, they were moving out.

"I kind of witnessed the deterioration of [the Broad Ripple scene]," he said. "There definitely still is lots of good music in Broad Ripple," he added. "But that whole indie music scene seemed to migrate over the last decade and, in a way, it moved to Fountain Square because it had to: it's perfect. That's an area where the gritty rock and roll vibe will always be alive and well, and all the rock and roll kids needed an area in the city to call their own."

At the time, musicians like Christian Taylor, and Jorma Whittaker and Dave Jablonski from Marmoset, were already living in Fountain Square and had been for years. But most agree that a small, but key moment in the evolution of Fountain Square as a destination for a new generation of musicians was when Benny Sanders and Lisa Berlin, of now-defunct band Jookabox, moved there, eventually drawing their friends as well.

"Them moving to Fountain Square kind of started an exodus [from Broad Ripple] or a migration to [Fountain Square] for a lot of other music-minded people, and that's directly influenced what's happening now," said Rogers.

By now there are houses in Fountain Square whose musical history can be traced like a genealogical chart. For example, the house where I met Peoni has been home to at least three different crops of musicians over the years, which is another reason the scene has been able to grow and thrive. Once one group gets a foothold in a certain house or houses in the neighborhood, they tend to pull other musicians in, and the close concentration of creative minds breeds more creativity.

click to enlarge Jim Peoni of GloryHole Records - PHILLIP HILL

"Because they're crammed into a little space, things start to happen," said Taylor.

He described the excitement he felt watching more and more of his friends begin moving to the Square; the feeling of waking up day after day and being able to walk next door to a friend's house and start playing music — unlike in earlier days when it took more effort to get musicians together.

"Shit just didn't get done when everyone was spread across town," he said.

After a while, he noted, attention starts to gather more often at certain houses, unconsciously and sometimes very consciously, as places where everyone congregates.

Mediumship

Every once in a while, certain houses in the neighborhood rise to prominence not only as collecting points for musicians to practice, party and keep the rain off their backs, but as regular music venues. Mediumship, located across the highway in Bates-Hendricks, just west of Fountain Square, is the site of multiple house shows per week.

But Mediumship is also kind of a collective within a collective; it's a trio of bands - Vacation Club, Learner Dancer and Crys - who hang out together, tour together and help each other record.

Shepard, who founded and lives in Mediumship, said he became friends with Vacation Club after he loaned them his reel-to-reel mixer to record their first album. The sharing of gear and expertise is perhaps one of the least visible but most binding elements that ties musicians together.

"What really drew me to all these guys was the fact that they only wanted to play music, and the styles they were playing was the kind of stuff I'm into," said Shepard, referring to the overall psychedelic bent that all three bands share.

About five years ago he began making periodic trips back to Indy from Bloomington, where he was attending IU. Through playing shows at places like the now-defunct Vollrath, he fell in with what is now the Mediumship crew. His band Crys includes Gardner on bass and Mitchell Duncan on guitar, and is strongly influenced by early-'70s German krautrock; their tracks are characterized by long songs with fast, driving beats overlaid with tightly wound and repetitive guitar riffs and psychedelic fuzz to spare.

Over drinks at the Brass Ring, he speaks about various side projects and ideas in an almost manic, rapid-fire way that suggests that he's a visionary and a planner, one moment he's explaining the merits of the analog recording process, the next we're on to his future plans.

"My goal is to run a full-length vinyl label and to turn Mediumship into a label," he said. "But right now, the means are not there."

I ask him what he would do if he suddenly inherited $50,000.

"Oh, I've got it all laid out, it's all right here," he said, flipping open his laptop to reveal a series of spreadsheets and plans for how he would move Mediumship forward.

Somehow, I'm not surprised.

But therein lies the looming paradox of this movement: while no one really seems to care about making money, it's acknowledged that working capital is ultimately what it will take to move ahead with many of their projects.
But for now, people like Shepard are advancing their projects through cooperation and the few dollars they make from shows or selling records.

Most of them have day jobs, of course; these are not Trustafarians trying out the Bohemian lifestyle for a few years before they pack it in and head to law school. Furthermore, a lot of them come from small towns in Indiana that they're in no rush to go back to. They have invested their time and energy in each others' continued success because for many of them there is no way back, only forward.

Learner Dancer, "Fortune Teller" / "Forever Today"

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